Despite an expected battle with Assembly Republican leadership, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker insists there will be no fee or gas tax increases to pay for road construction. Walker, in an interview with Media Trackers the day after his state of the state address, was asked about the tepid response his no tax or fee pledge received from Assembly Republicans in the chamber and what it meant for his chances of keeping the pledge:
“Well, first off I make the clear and overriding point that this is a promise not between mean and the legislature; it’s a promise between me and the voters. I told the voters very clearly when I ran for re-election two years ago, over and over again, it was some quiet little pledge…that I would not raise the gas tax and I would not raise vehicle registration fees without a corresponding or greater decrease somewhere else in other state taxes.”
Assembly leaders, most notably Speaker Robin Vos, have been vocal in their opposition to Walker’s no tax or fee hike stance. Vos released a video depicting him taking what appears to be a bumpy ambulance ride. Walker insists that under his plan the state’s roads will be safe:
“My focus will be on…safety and maintenance of the existing system. Roads and bridges will be fixed and potholes filled at the local level. We’re giving them some of the biggest increases they had at the local level in anywhere from 15 to 20 years. We’re going to put the highest amount we’ve ever put in the state highway rehabilitation and that will be all part of maintaining the system and making sure it’s safe.
We’re not going to take on major new projects. To me it’s real simple; if you’ve got a house you keep it safe, you keep it sound. If you’ve got a list of 10 remodeling projects, you might take on one or two at a time, but you don’t take on all 10 at once.
I respect that there is a handful of Republicans who don’t agree with me on that, but I think in the end both a majority of Republicans in the Assembly and the Senate agree with that position. And as long as we can guarantee that we can provide for the safety and maintenance of the existing system, I think we’ll ultimately get a budget passed.”
The issue has pit Walker against longtime conservative bedfellows. In addition to Vos and other Republicans in the Assembly, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce has come out in favor of a “modest gas tax increase.” A five-cent increase has been widely discussed. Conservative activists routinely email state talk show hosts, trying to convince them to support the increase.
You can hear our interview with Walker here: